In my first two years in Belgium, one of the most significant things I’ve learned is the power of simple things. One of the values of my church community is integration into local context. We strive to be relevant and active in the city, to be examples of Jesus while being fully assimilated into Belgian culture, specifically, the culture and rhythms of our city. Our heart is to go where people are and be a part of what they are doing—to be the light of Jesus among them.
We do not own a church building, but rather meet in a school. We put on a kids' club in a community building in one of the neighborhoods that is home to many young families. Instead of creating our own program for low income and isolated people, we volunteer with groups that are already established. This simple approach means we can function with a very low budget and little time is needed to focus on maintaining resources. It also means that we are seen by our neighbors as normal people doing normal things. Relationships are created by serving our city in this way, creating ripples of influence.
Just this spring, we saw the difference between two “bigger” and “smaller” events whose community impact were the inverse of their size. The bigger event was an Easter multi-discipline art program put on by the OM Belgium team, including eight artists from various countries. We had professional-quality music and visual art with simple but excellent-quality sound and lighting. Outside of regular church attendees, three visitors came from the city. The quality was there and everyone said it was a great performance, but the people reached were few.
A few weeks later, I participated in an exhibition day with one of the community associations with whom I volunteer. As far as I know, I was the only Jesus follower involved in the program. I exhibited with six other local artists who possess varying degrees of artistic skill. Between 50 and 60 people came—only three were Jesus followers. I was able to share about my artwork and faith, and have open conversations about who I believe Jesus is, because people knew me as a person they respect and trust from my involvement in their daily world. From a professional and artistic perspective, this second event was much less effective, but the kingdom impact ranked it high above the larger event.
The small event is powerful, creating an environment for direct connections and building relationships. It relies on the simplicity of one life touching another. It is in these interactions that lives are transformed.